What Every Puppy Owner Needs to Know About Parvo in Puppies

Parvovirus is an illness that is very contagious and can negatively affect the health of young puppies and dogs that are unvaccinated. In this post, our Riverbank vets talk about parvovirus in puppies and dogs and explain the importance of vaccination.

How Dogs Get Parvovirus 'Parvo'

Parvovirus is an extremely contagious virus that can cause extreme gastrointestinal symptoms in unvaccinated dogs of all ages and young puppies. The virus spreads through traces of feces from infected dogs. Infected dogs that are asymptomatic and haven't started showing symptoms can spread Parvo, as well as dogs that have symptoms, and those that have recently recovered from the illness.

Parvovirus is so infectious that a person that has unknowingly been in contact with an infected dog can spread it to puppies and other dogs just by touching them. Meaning that a loving pat on the head could become the start of a life-threatening illness.

Other common sources of contamination are leashes, bowls, toys, and bedding.

On average, the peak of parvovirus season is during the summer and fall months. If you have a young puppy or unvaccinated dog you must contact your vet immediately if they start exhibiting parvovirus symptoms.

The Impacts Parvovirus Has on a Dog's Body

Parvo is considered a disease of the stomach and small intestines because that is where the virus starts destroying the dog's gut barrier by attacking healthy cells and blocking the absorption of essential nutrients.

In puppies that have parvovirus, the illness also attacks the bone marrow and lymphopoietic tissues which are essential to the immune system. Then the virus often goes on to affect the heart.

What Makes Puppies Susceptible to Parvo

If the mother is fully vaccinated against Parvo, the puppies will inherit antibodies from the mother which will protect them against the virus during the first 6 weeks of their lives.

However, as the puppies start weaning at about 6 weeks of age, their immune systems weaken and the young pups become susceptible to the disease.

Vets strongly encourage pet owners to begin vaccinating their puppy against Parvo when they are 6 weeks old when the puppy starts to wean and the antibodies from the mother are no longer there to protect them.

It's also important to note that puppies aren't protected against the disease until they have received all 3 Parvo vaccinations. It is during the gap between weaning and full vaccination that puppies are most likely to catch Parvo.

Your puppy should receive their Parvovirus shot at 6, 8, and 12 weeks of age. If you are a pet parent, having your puppy vaccinated against Parvovirus is one of the best ways you can protect the health of your new companion and the health of other dogs in your home and neighborhood.

Signs & Symptoms of Parvovirus

It is essential to understand that your puppy is already very sick when they start showing Parvovirus symptoms. If you see your puppy exhibiting any of the following symptoms, call your vet immediately.

  • Loss of Appetite
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Lethargy
  •  Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Vomiting

Treating Parvovirus in Puppies

There aren't any cures for Parvovirus in puppies, but, your vet can provide supportive treatments to address symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. It is essential for your pup to stay hydrated and consume the essential nutrients they need to recover from Parvovirus.

As secondary infections are common in puppies that have Parvovirus (due to their weakened immune systems) your vet will monitor your puppy's ongoing condition and may prescribe antibiotics to help combat any bacterial infections that may start to develop.

If your four-legged friend is being treated by a veterinarian and survives the first four days after symptoms appear, there is a good chance that your puppy will recover from the disease. It typically takes about a week for dogs to recover from Parvo.

 If your puppy is diagnosed with Canine Parvovirus it is essential to isolate them from other animals and always wash your hands thoroughly after being near your young dog.

How To Prevent Parvovirus

Never let your puppy spend time around dogs that aren't fully vaccinated against Parvovirus. While socialization is essential for young dogs, it is imperative to know if the dogs that your puppy spends time with are fully vaccinated and aren't a threat to the health of your pup. Talk to your vet about the best ways you can protect your furry family member.

Be sure to follow your vet's advice and have your puppy vaccinated against Parvo, rabies, and other potentially serious conditions based on a puppy vaccination schedule for your area, and ensure your dog stays up to date with their booster shots.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your unvaccinated dog or young puppy suffering from parvovirus symptoms? Contact our Riverbank vets immediately to schedule an appointment.